Microsoft says hackers from Russia, China and Iran were targeting US election campaigns
Microsoft said Thursday it had thwarted recent cyberattacks from China, Russia and Iran targeting both Republican and Democratic presidential campaigns, as technology giants scrambled to protect election security less than two months ahead of the US vote.
Twitter announced it would implement a policy next week to remove “false or misleading information intended to undermine public confidence in an election,” including unverified claims of victory, and Google said it would take steps to ensure its “auto complete” search feature avoids any misleading or false claims.
Microsoft said in a security blog that attackers have been targeting staff from the campaigns of President Donald Trump and his Democratic rival, Joe Biden.
“In recent weeks, Microsoft has detected cyberattacks targeting people and organizations involved in the upcoming presidential election, including unsuccessful attacks on people associated with both the Trump and Biden campaigns,” said corporate vice president Tom Burt.
“The activity we are announcing today makes clear that foreign activity groups have stepped up their efforts targeting the 2020 election as had been anticipated, and is consistent with what the US government and others have reported.”
An updated Twitter policy will ban misleading claims about election results and the voting process, including any unverified claims of victory or efforts to interfere with the transfer or power
The attackers have been active against political operatives, think tanks, consultants and political parties in Europe as well, Microsoft said.
It identified a Russia-based group called Strontium which Burt said “has attacked more than 200 organizations” and China-based Zirconium, which he said “has attacked high-profile individuals associated with the election, including people associated with the Joe Biden for President campaign and prominent leaders in the international affairs community.”
An Iran-based group dubbed Phosphorus has been targeting personal accounts of people associated with the Trump campaign, Microsoft said.
“The majority of these attacks were detected and stopped by security tools built into our products,” Burt said.
“We have directly notified those who were targeted or compromised so they can take action to protect themselves.”
– Twitter ramps up defense –
Twitter’s new policy in effect from September 17 bans “false or misleading information” about voting as well as “disputed claims that could undermine faith in the process itself,” such as allegations of election rigging, ballot tampering, vote tallying or certification of election results.
The move comes amid rising concerns about when results will be verified for the November 3 presidential election, in view of an expected large volume of mail-in ballots — a process under attack from President Donald Trump who has spent months attacking its integrity.
The new policy prohibits “misleading claims about the results” or interference with the electoral process such as “claiming victory before election results have been certified, inciting unlawful conduct to prevent a peaceful transfer of power or orderly succession.”
Some analysts have suggested that Trump may reject the election results or refuse to leave office if he loses, while Trump himself has spent months suggesting Democrats were attempting to “rig” the election and refusing to say whether he will accept the results.
Both Twitter and Facebook have placed labels on Trump posts about on mail-in voting — sent out to his tens of millions of followers.
The Twitter Safety team said it expects to take a strict approach to the updated policies.
“We will not permit our service to be abused around civic processes, most importantly elections,” the company said.
“Any attempt to do so — both foreign and domestic — will be met with strict enforcement of our rules, which are applied equally and judiciously for everyone.”
Google announced separately it would tighten controls for its “autocomplete” search feature to guard against misinformation.
“We will remove predictions that could be interpreted as claims for or against any candidate or political party,” search vice president Pandu Nayak said.
“We will also remove predictions that could be interpreted as a claim about participation in the election — like statements about voting methods, requirements, or the status of voting locations –or the integrity or legitimacy of electoral processes, such as the security of the election.”
This will rule out predictions such as “you can vote by phone,” Nayak said.
Social media operators have been struggling with disinformation campaigns from Russia, China and other countries along with unverified claims by Trump on the vote process.
Facebook said last month it was bracing for efforts by Trump or others to attack the integrity of the US election.
According to media reports, Facebook was mapping out responses to post-election scenarios including efforts by Trump to use the leading social network to wrongly claim victory or contend the outcome is not legitimate.
Best-selling author Bob Woodward, whose latest book, “Rage,” is about President Donald Trump
Nearly 50 years after Watergate, Bob Woodward is still breaking front page news and rattling US presidents.
His reporting about the Watergate scandal as a journalist for The Washington Post brought down Richard Nixon.
Now a best-selling author, the 77-year-old Woodward’s latest book, “Rage,” is shaking the White House of President Donald Trump less than two months ahead of the November 3 election.
In one of the 17 on-the-record interviews Woodward conducted with Trump for the book, the president admits to minimizing the threat from the coronavirus at the outset of a pandemic which has gone on to take nearly 200,000 lives in the United States.
“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump said in one conversation with Woodward. “I still like playing it down, because I don’t want to create a panic.”
Fear,” Bob Woodward’s 2018 book about the Trump White House
Trump also told Woodward that he understood early on that the virus was “deadly stuff” and far more dangerous than the common flu. At the same time, he was reassuring the American public the virus would just “disappear.”
Trump’s Democratic challenger Joe Biden attacked the president’s decision to downplay the health crisis as a “life and death betrayal of the American people.”
“He knowingly and willingly lied about the threat it posed to the country for months,” Biden said.
Woodward, in an interview with the CBS show “60 Minutes,” described as a “tragedy” the president’s failure to inform the public early on about how deadly the virus was.
“The president of the United States has a duty to warn,” he said. “The public will understand that but if they get the feeling that they’re not getting the truth, then you’re going down the path of deceit and cover up.”
– Watergate –
Woodward studied at Yale University and did a five-year tour in the US Navy, before turning to journalism.
After a stint at a local paper in the Washington suburbs, he got his shot at the Post in 1971.
Woodward had barely a year of reporting experience when he and Bernstein stumbled into the story of a lifetime — the 1972 break-in by Republican operatives of the Democratic Party offices in Washington’s Watergate compound.
Their classic gumshoe investigation prompted congressional hearings and led to Nixon’s resignation in 1974.
Woodward and Bernstein wrote a best-selling book, “All the President’s Men,” about the scandal which was turned into a hit 1976 film starring Robert Redford as Woodward and Dustin Hoffman as Bernstein.
“Rage” is already topping the Amazon bestseller list even before it goes on sale on September 15.
Since leaving daily journalism, Woodward has put out 20 books, including authoritative tomes on Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
His in-depth reporting about Washington’s corridors of power is unmatched, and his ability to back up whatever insider tales he hears has earned him grudging respect in the US capital.
– ‘Curiosity’ –
Why Trump agreed to conduct 17 on-the-record interviews with Woodward — 16 of which were recorded — is something of a mystery, particularly after his previous book portrayed the president in an unflattering light.
Woodward’s “Fear: Trump in the White House” published in 2018 painted a portrait of an angry, paranoid leader and a White House which Trump’s own chief of staff described as “Crazytown.”
“Bob Woodward is somebody that I respect just from hearing the name for many, many years,” Trump said on Thursday in explaining his decision to be interviewed.
“I thought it would be interesting to talk to him,” he said. “I did it out of curiosity.”
Woodward, who retains an honorific title of associate editor at the Post but no longer writes for the newspaper, has come in for some criticism for withholding the details of his interviews with Trump — which were conducted between December 2019 and July 2020 — for his book.
“If Bob Woodward thought what I said was bad then he should have immediately, right after I said it, gone out to the authorities so they could prepare,” Trump said.
Woodward, in an interview with the Post, defended his decision to hold back the material for his book.
In addition, he said, in dealing with the president’s revelations, “the biggest problem I had, which is always a problem with Trump, is I didn’t know if it was true.”
SIGN UP TO RECEIVE OUR EMAIL
The most important news of the day about the ASEAN Countries and the world in one email: [email protected]